LeBron heads back to Cleveland. Was big data right?

The great, mind-dulling debate about where LeBron James would end up took a new twist when famed data nerd Nate Silver weighed in.

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Will he let the numbers crunch the decision for him? CNN/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk

Whenever I'm unsure where LeBron James will play basketball next, I cease to eat.

This helps with the slightly sick feeling that comes on seeing the world having its chain yanked by a hearty ego.

At the time of this writing, it was unknown whether this self-monikered king would stay in Miami, head to Cleveland, or disappear to some strange ether like Los Angeles.

[Update, 10:16 a.m. PT: James has decided to go against the numbers. He is returning to Cleveland. I look forward to more numbers telling us how bad a decision this might be.]

Rumor has it that he's got himself a ticket for the World Cup final, though.

Still, because this was a significant issue for world politics, Nate Silver and his band of high-ho data people at FiveThirtyEight (not to be confused with FourTwenty) crunched the numbers to give James some advice.

The results were startling. Silver pleaded with James not to go to Miami or Cleveland. The Heat, according to the numbers, are in decline. This might ruin James' status as a pitchman for Samsung and Beats. Or, as they're known now, Samsung and Apple.

The Heat's mere 54 wins last year do not bode well (statistically, at least) for a winning future.

For Cleveland, Silver says that "it's possible to conjure any number of upside scenarios." However, the numbers point to better potential scenarios for James. Dallas, Houston, the Lakers, the Suns, the Bulls, the Hawks and even, breathe now, the Knicks seems to offer him a brighter possibility of more championship wins.

One core statistic that informs this chilling analysis is something called Statistical Plus/Minus. This "measures a player's value in points per game (more precisely, points per 100 possessions) relative to the league average."

You might think numbers such as these are only useful for rarefied sports. I suspect, though, that your own bosses are increasingly judging your performance with a raft of stats just like this one. For all I know, it's Lines of Code Written/Hour Spent Watching Videos Of Topless Firemen Saving Cats.

Personally, I cannot abide the idea of statistics dominating sports. Silver, for example, was woefully inaccurate with his insistence that Brazil would win the World Cup.

Instead, might I offer James a piece of sanguine, pragmatic, non-numerical advice? He should leave Miami.

How have I reached this conclusion? Well, I've just read a report that says Miami-Dade residents should arm themselves after budget cuts to the police force.

Numbers can never embrace lifestyle, can they?

 

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